Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Review: "Red 2" Not Quite as Fresh as "Red"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 84 (of 2013) by Leroy Douresseaux

Red 2 (2013)
Running time:  116 minutes (1 hour, 56 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for pervasive action and violence including frenetic gunplay, and for some language and drug material
DIRECTOR:  Dean Parisot
WRITERS:  Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber (based on characters created by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner)
PRODUCERS:  Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Mark Vahradian
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Enrique Chediak (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Don Zimmerman
COMPOSER:  Alan Silvestri

ACTION/COMEDY with elements of drama and romance

Starring:  Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins, Byung-hun Lee, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Neal McDonough, David Thewlis, Tim Pigott-Smith, and Brian Cox

Red 2 is a 2013 action comedy from director Dean Parisot.  The film is a sequel to the 2010 film, Red.  Red 2 is inspired by Red, the comic book miniseries by Warren Ellis and Cully Hammer that was the basis for the first film.  Red 2 stars Bruce Willis as a retired CIA agent who joins his unique friends to find a long-missing nuclear weapon.

As Red 2 begins, retired CIA operative, Frank Moses (Bruce Willis), is enjoying domestic bliss with his girlfriend, Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker).  His old friend and former operative, Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich), warns Frank that people are still after them.  In fact, a group of government agents approach Frank, claiming that they must interrogate him because he is R.E.D. (retired, extremely dangerous).

After Jack Horton (Neal McDonough), another government agent, tries to kill him, Marvin tells Frank that they are being tracked because of their knowledge of an old secret operation called, “Project Nightshade.”  Reluctantly, Frank reunites his unlikely team of elite operatives to solve the mystery of Nightshade, but he discovers that Sarah insists on being part of the team and she also wants her own gun.

Red 2 is fun to watch, but it lacks the sparkle that Red had as something new and different.  Red 2 is best when it focuses on the trio of Frank, Sarah, and Marvin.  Victoria Winslow (Helen Mirren) returns, but the character seems tacked on, at least until the last act when she really becomes useful.  The new characters are a mixed bag.  They have their good moments, but most of the time they come across as nothing more than as an excuse to cast movie stars in flashy small roles.  No-name actors could have done as good if not better than Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta-Jones did in vacuous supporting roles.  I bet creating the character, Han Cho Bai, and casting Byung-hun Lee was nothing more than an attempt by this film’s producers to pander to the audience in the expanding East Asian market for American films.

Another thing that hampers this new film is all that globe-trotting the character do.  Red offered a jaunt across the landscape of American secret agent men and women.  Red 2 bops around Europe like a clumsy comic take on a Jason Bourne movie.

That said, I got a kick out of every scene that focused on the team of Frank, Sarah, and Marvin.  I give Red 2 a grade of “B” because of this threesome.  A “Red 3” would do well to focus on what I call the “Red trio.”

6 of 10

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The text is copyright © 2013 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Florida Film Critics Choose "12 Years a Slave"

by Amos Semien

12 Years a Slave is the Florida Film Critics Circle "Best Picture" of 2013.  That honor is one of six won by the film including two notices for Lupita Nyong'o.

The Florida Film Critics Circle (FFCC) was founded in 1996 is comprised of writers from various state-based publications.

Complete list of 2013 FFCC Award winners:

Best Picture: 12 Years a Slave
Runner-up: American Hustle

Best Actor: Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave
Runner-up: Joaquin Phoenix – Her

Best Actress: Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine
Runner-up: Judi Dench – Philomena

Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club
Runner-up: Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave

Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave
Runner-up: Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle

Best Director: Steve McQueen – 12 Years a Slave
Runner-up: Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity

Best Adapted Screenplay: John Ridley – 12 Years a Slave
Runner-up: Terence Winter – The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Original Screenplay: Spike Jonze – Her
Runner-up: David O. Russell & Eric Singer – American Hustle

Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki – Gravity
Runner-up: Bruno Delbonnel – Inside Llewyn Davis

Best Visual Effects: Gravity
Runner-up: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Best Art Direction/Production Design: The Great Gatsby
Runner-up: American Hustle

Best Foreign Language: Blue is the Warmest Color
Runner-up: The Hunt

Best Animated Film: Frozen
Runner-up: The Wind Rises

Best Documentary: The Act of Killing
Runner-up: Blackfish

Pauline Kael Breakout Award: Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave
Runner-up: Michael B. Jordan – Fruitvale Station

Golden Orange:
Dana Keith of the Miami Beach Cinematheque for his tireless championing of foreign, independent and alternative film in South Florida for more than 20 years.


Review: "Corky Romano" Has Enjoyable Cheap Laughs (Happy B'day, Fred Ward)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 140 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

Corky Romano (2001)
Running time:  86 minutes (1 hour, 26 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for drug and sex-related humor, and for language
DIRECTOR:  Rob Pritts
WRITERS:  David Garrett and Jason Ward
PRODUCER:  Robert Simonds
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Steven Bernstein (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Alan Cody
COMPOSER:  Randy Edelman


Starring:  Chris Kattan, Vinessa Shaw, Peter Falk, Peter Berg, Chris Penn, Richard Roundtree, Fred Ward, Matthew Glave, Roger Fan, Dave Sheridan, Vincent Pastore, and Kip King

The subject of this movie review is Corky Romano, a 2001 crime-mafia comedy.  The film stars “Saturday Night Live” alumnus, Chris Kattan, as the loser son of a low-level Mafia boss forced to infiltrate the FBI.

Bad movies can be hilarious, eliciting countless belly laughs; sometimes they can be uproarious, which is the case with the Chris Kattan vehicle Corky Romano.  The writers filled the scripts with such implausibility (the central premise of a bumbling idiot infiltrating the Federal Bureau of Investigation stretches the imagination; then, again, who thought 9/11 could happen?), so one must really suspend disbelief.  Chris Kattan, an excellent physical comedian, probably as good as Jim Carrey, firmly takes control of this rickety movie.  He manipulates his co-stars as ably as he maneuvers his body and makes Corky Romano quite funny.

Corky (Chris Kattan) is an assistant veterinarian with dreams of being a licensed vet.  His father “Pops” Romano (Peter Falk) is a wealthy low-rent hood specializing in rackets and gambling, but some unknown person has implicated Pops on murder charges.  The feds are after him, and he’s facing hard time (in the typical “upstate” prison).  He and his sons Paulie (Peter Berg) and Peter (Chris Penn) have hatched a plan to have Corky infiltrate the local FBI office the way the feds have obviously penetrated the Romanos’ operations.  Paulie, a functional illiterate, and Peter, a closet homosexual, have no faith in their brother Corky, but they assist him in his mission to pass as an agent of the FBI and retrieve whatever incriminating evidence they have on Pops.

Once inside, Corky, through the usual movie luck, misunderstanding, and being in the wrong place at the right time somehow convince the feds that he’s a topnotch agent.  His boss Howard Shuster (Richard Roundtree) loves him, and Corky catches the eye of a comely, young FBI wench, Agent Kate Russo (Vinessa Shaw), who is, of course, trying to show the guys that she’s just as good as any male agent.  While most of his colleagues think that Corky is the not only the real deal, but a great G-man, Agent Brick Davis (Matthew Glave) is a rival with Corky for Shuster’s attention and approval, and he out to prove that Corky is a phony.

If you set your brain on dumb, you’ll have a great time because Corky is an very good, bad movie.  Although it’s short on the kind of grossness one can expect from the American Pie and Austin Powers films, Corky Romano has it’s share of bizarreness.  All the male characters in the film really crave the attention of their male peers and associates (in addition to the whole father-son-mentor subtext), and there is a not-too-subtle gay subtext of physical attraction between men, not to mention that certain male characters are always paired together.  Either way, Corky Romano is many cheap laughs, and sometimes, that is hard to find in many movies that claim to be funny.

5 of 10

Updated:  Monday, December 30, 2013

The text is copyright © 2013 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

"Pulp Fiction," "The Right Stuff" Among 2013 National Film Registry Additions

Press release:

Cinema with the Right Stuff Marks 2013 National Film Registry

“Pulp Fiction,” “Mary Poppins,” “Roger & Me” Among Registry Additions

Heroes of the space race, a pop cult classic; the age-old battle between the sexes; and a record of Native-American traditions are among a cadre of films being recognized as works of great cultural, historic or aesthetic significance to the nation’s cinematic heritage. The Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington, announced today the annual selection of 25 motion pictures to join the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. They will be preserved as cinematic treasures for generations to come.

"The National Film Registry stands among the finest summations of more than a century of extraordinary American cinema," said Billington. "This key component of American cultural history, however, is endangered, so we must protect the nation’s matchless film heritage and cinematic creativity."

Spanning the period 1919-2002, the films named to the registry include Hollywood classics, documentaries, silent films, independent and experimental motion pictures. This year’s selections bring the number of films in the registry to 625, a small part of the Library’s vast moving-image collection of 1.2 million items.

The 2013 registry list includes such movie classics as "Mary Poppins," featuring Julie Andrews’ Academy Award-winning performance, and John Ford’s "The Quiet Man," starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. Films that catapulted the cinematic careers of their directors include Quentin Tarantino’s "Pulp Fiction," a fusion of film noir and hardboiled crime storytelling; and Mike Nichols’ "Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" which starred Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, then married, as an explosively espoused couple.

The list also includes "Forbidden Planet," one of the seminal science-fiction films of the 1950s; "The Right Stuff," an epic tribute to the pioneers of the space program; and "Judgment at Nuremberg," which earned actor Maximilian Schell and screenwriter Abby Mann Academy Awards.

Among the documentaries named to the registry are "Roger and Me," Michael Moore’s advocacy film about the human effects of the failing auto industry; "Cicero March," the confrontation between blacks and whites on the streets of an Illinois town in 1966; "Decasia," which was created from scraps of decades-old, decomposing film; and female filmmaker Lee Dick’s "Men and Dust."

The silent films tapped for preservation are "Daughter of Dawn," featuring an all-Native-American cast of Comanches and Kiowas; "A Virtuous Vamp," starring Constance Talmadge, from 1919; and the 1926 Cinderella story, "Ella Cinders." The Library of Congress recently released a report that conclusively determined that 70 percent of the nation’s silent feature films have been lost forever and only 14 percent exist in their original 35 mm format.

Under the terms of the National Film Preservation Act, each year the Librarian of Congress names 25 films to the National Film Registry that are "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant. The films must be at least 10 years old. The Librarian makes the annual registry selections after reviewing hundreds of titles nominated by the public and conferring with Library film curators and the distinguished members of the National Film Preservation Board (NFPB). The public is urged to make nominations for next year’s registry at the NFPB’s website (www.loc.gov/film).

For each title named to the registry, the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation works to ensure that the film is preserved for future generations, either through the Library’s motion-picture preservation program or through collaborative ventures with other archives, motion-picture studios and independent filmmakers. The Packard Campus is a state-of-the-art facility where the nation’s library acquires, preserves and provides access to the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of films, television programs, radio broadcasts and sound recordings (www.loc.gov/avconservation).

The Packard Campus is home to more than 7 million collection items. It provides staff support for the Library of Congress National Film Preservation Board, the National Recording Preservation Board and the National Registries for film and recorded sound.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. It seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its vast collections, programs and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov.

2013 National Film Registry:

Bless Their Little Hearts (1984)
Part of the vibrant New Wave of independent African-American filmmakers to emerge in the 1970s and 1980s, Billy Woodberry became a key figure in the movement known as the L.A. Rebellion. Woodberry crafted his UCLA thesis film, "Bless Their Little Hearts," which was theatrically released in 1984. The film features a script and cinematography by Charles Burnett. This spare, emotionally resonant portrait of family life during times of struggle blends grinding, daily-life sadness with scenes of deft humor. Jim Ridley of the "Village Voice" aptly summed up the film’s understated-but- real virtues: "Its poetry lies in the exaltation of ordinary detail."

Brandy in the Wilderness (1969)
This introspective "contrived diary" film by Stanton Kaye features vignettes from the relationship of a real-life couple, in this case the director and his girlfriend. An evocative 1960s time capsule—reminiscent of Jim McBride’s "David Holzman’s Diary"—this simulated autobiography, as in many experimental films, often blurs the lines between reality and illusion, moving in non-linear arcs through the ever-evolving and unpredictable interactions of relationships, time and place. As Paul Schrader notes, "it is probably quite impossible (and useless) to make a distinction between the point at which the film reflects their lives, and the point at which their lives reflect the film." "Brandy in the Wilderness" remains a little-known yet key work of American indie filmmaking.

Cicero March (1966)
During the summer of 1966, the Chicago Freedom Movement, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., targeted Chicago in a drive to end de facto segregation in northern cities and ensure better housing, education and job opportunities for African Americans. After violent rioting and a month of demonstrations, the city reached an agreement with King, in part to avoid a threatened march for open housing in the neighboring all-white town of Cicero, Ill., the scene of a riot 15 years earlier when a black couple tried to move into an apartment there. King called off further demonstrations, but other activists marched in Cicero on Sept. 4, an event preserved on film in this eight-minute, cinema-vérité-styled documentary. Using lightweight, handheld equipment, the Chicago-based Film Group, Inc. filmmakers situated themselves in the midst of confrontations and captured for posterity the viciousness of northern reactions to civil-rights reforms.

Daughter of Dawn (1920)
A fascinating example of the daringly unexpected topics and scope showcased by the best regional, independent filmmaking during the silent era, "Daughter of Dawn" features an all-Native-American cast of Comanches and Kiowas. Although it offers a fictional love-story narrative, the film presents a priceless record of Native-American customs, traditions and artifacts of the time. The Oklahoma Historical Society recently rediscovered and restored this film with a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation.

Decasia (2002)
Errol Morris, the director of such highly acclaimed documentary features as "The Thin Blue Line," "Fast, Cheap and Out of Control" and "Mr. Death," is noted to have sat drop-jawed watching "Decasia" and stammering, "This may be the greatest movie ever made." Created from scraps of decades-old decomposing "found film," "Decasia" hypnotizes and teases with images that fade and transform themselves right before the viewer’s eyes. Culling footage from archives across the country, filmmaker Bill Morrison collected nitrate film stock on the very brink of disappearance and distilled it into a new art form capable of provoking "transports of sublime reverie amid pangs of wistful sorrow," according to New York Times writer Lawrence Weschler. Morrison wedded images to the discordant music of composer Michael Gordon—a founding member of the Bang on a Can Collective—into a fusion of sight and sound that Weschler called "ravishingly, achingly beautiful."

Ella Cinders (1926)
With her trendsetting Dutch bob haircut and short skirts, Colleen Moore brought insouciance and innocence to the flapper image, character and aesthetic. By 1926, however, when she appeared in "Ella Cinders," Moore’s interpretation of the flapper had been eclipsed by the more overtly sexual version popularized by Clara Bow or Joan Crawford. In "Ella Cinders," Ella (Colleen Moore) wins a beauty contest sponsored by a movie magazine and is awarded a studio contract. New York Times reviewer Mordaunt Hall observed that the film was "filled with those wild incidents which are seldom heard of in ordinary society," and noted "Miss Moore is energetic and vivacious." The film is an archetype of 1920s comedy, featuring a star whose air of emancipation inspired her generation.

Forbidden Planet (1956)
Directed by Fred M. Wilcox, MGM’s "Forbidden Planet" is one of the seminal science-fiction films of the 1950s, a genre that found itself revitalized and empowered after World War II and within America’s newly created post-nuclear age. Loosely based upon William Shakespeare’s "The Tempest," "Forbidden Planet" is both sci-fi saga and allegory, a timely parable about the dangers of unlimited power and unrestrained technology. Since its production, the movie has proved inspirational to generations of speculative fiction visionaries, including Gene Roddenberry. Along with its literary influence, highly influential special effects and visual style, the film also pushed the boundaries of cinematic science fiction. For the first time, all action happened intergalatically (not on Earth) and humans are depicted as space travelers, regularly jetting off to the far reaches of the cosmos. Additionally, "Forbidden Planet" is remembered for its innovative score—or lack thereof. No music exists on the film’s soundtrack; instead, all ambient sounds are "electronic tonalities" created by Louis and Bebe Barren. Walter Pidgeon, Leslie Nielsen, Anne Francis and, in his debut, Robbie the Robot make up the film’s cast.

Gilda (1946)
With the end of World War II came a dark edge in the American psyche and a change in the films it produced. Film noir defined the 1940s and "Gilda" defined the Hollywood glamorization of film noir—long on sex appeal but short on substance. Director Charles Vidor capitalizes on the voyeuristic and sadomasochistic angles of film noir—and who better to fetishize than Rita Hayworth, poured into a strapless black satin evening gown and elbow-length gloves, sashaying to "Put the Blame on Mame." George Macready and Glenn Ford round out the tempestuous triangle, but "Gilda" was and, more than 65 years later, still is all about Hayworth.

The Hole (1962)
With "The Hole," legendary animators John and Faith Hubley created an "observation," as the opening title credits state, a chilling Academy Award-winning meditation on the possibility of an accidental nuclear catastrophe. Jazz great Dizzy Gillespie and actor George Mathews improvised a lively dialogue that the Hubleys and their animators used as the voices of two New York construction workers laboring under Third Avenue. Earlier in his career, while he worked as an animator in the Disney studios, John Hubley viewed a highly stylized Russian animated film—brought to his attention by Frank Lloyd Wright—that radically influenced his ideas about the possibilities of animation. With his new vision realized in this film, the Hubleys ominously, yet humorously, commented on the fears of nuclear devastation ever-present in cold war American culture during the year that the Cuban Missile crisis unfolded.

Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
Selecting as its focus the "Justices Trial" of the post-World War II Nuremberg war crimes tribunal, rather than the more publicized trials of major Nazi war criminals, "Judgment at Nuremberg" broadened its scope beyond the condemnation of German perpetrators to interrogate the concept of justice within any modern society. Conceived by screenwriter Abby Mann during the period of McCarthyism, the film argues passionately that those responsible for administering justice also have the duty to ensure that human-rights norms are preserved even if they conflict with national imperatives. Mann’s screenplay, originally produced as a Playhouse 90 teleplay, makes "the value of a single human being" the defining societal value that legal systems must respect. "Judgment at Nuremberg" startled audiences by including in the midst of its narrative seven minutes of film footage documenting concentration camp victims, thus using motion-picture evidence to make its point both in the courtroom and in movie theaters. Mann and actor Maximilian Schell received Academy Awards and the film boasted fine performances from its all-star cast.

King of Jazz (1930)
A sparkling example of a musical in the earliest days of two-color Technicolor, "The King of Jazz" is a fanciful revue of short skits, sight gags and musical numbers, all with orchestra leader Paul Whiteman—the self-proclaimed "King of Jazz" — at the center. Directed by John Murray Anderson and an uncredited Paul Fejos, it attempted to deliver "something for everyone" from a Walter Lantz cartoon for children to scantily-clad leggy dancers and contortionists for the male audience to the crooning of heartthrob Bing Crosby in his earliest screen appearance. "King of Jazz" also featured an opulent production number of George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue."

The Lunch Date (1989)
Adam Davidson’s 10-minute Columbia University student film examines the partial erosion of haughty self-confidence when stranded outside one’s personal comfort zone. A woman has a slice-of-life, train-station chance encounter with a homeless man, and stumbles through several off-key reactions when they share a salad she believes is hers. Winner of a 1990 Student Academy Award, "The Lunch Date" stands out as a simple, yet effective, parable on the vicissitudes and pervasiveness of perception, race and stereotypes.

The Magnificent Seven (1960)
The popularity of this Western, based on Akira Kurosawa’s "Seven Samurai" (1954), has continued to grow since its release due in part to its role as a springboard for several young actors on the verge of successful careers: Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn and Horst Buchholz. The film also gave a new twist to the career of Yul Brynner. Brynner bought the rights to Kurosawa’s original story and hand-picked John Sturges as its director. Sturges had earned a reputation as a solid director of Westerns such as "Bad Day at Black Rock" (1955) and "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral" (1957). Transporting the action from Japan to Mexico, where it was filmed on location, the story portrays a gang of paid gunslingers hired by farmers to rout the bandits pillaging their town. Contributing to the film’s popular appeal through the decades is Elmer Bernstein’s vibrant score, which would go on to become the theme music for Marlboro cigarette commercials from 1962 until cigarette advertising on television was banned in 1971.

Martha Graham Early Dance Films (1931-1944)
("Heretic," 1931; "Frontier," 1936; "Lamentation," 1943; "Appalachian Spring," 1944)
Universally acknowledged as the preeminent figure in the development of modern dance and one of the most important artists of the 20th century, Martha Graham formed her own dance company in 1926. It became the longest continuously operating school of dance in America. With her company’s creation, Graham codified her revolutionary new dance language soon to be dubbed the "Graham Technique." Her innovations would go on to influence generations of future dancers and choreographers, including Twyla Tharp and Merce Cunningham. This quartet of films, all silent and all starring Graham herself, document four of the artist’s most important early works. They are "Heretic," with Graham as an outcast denounced by Puritans; "Frontier," a solo piece celebrating western expansion and the American spirit; "Lamentation," a solo piece about death and mourning; and "Appalachian Spring," a multi-character dance drama, the lyrical beauty of which is retained even without the aid of Aaron Copland’s famous and beloved music.

Mary Poppins (1964)
Alleged to be Walt Disney’s personal favorite from all of his many classic films, "Mary Poppins" is based upon a book by P.L. Travers. With Travers’ original tale as a framework, screenwriters Bill Walsh and Don DaGradi, with the aid of songwriters the Sherman Brothers (Richard M. and Robert B.), fashioned an original movie musical about a most unusual nanny. Weaving together a witty script, an inventive visual style and a slate of classic songs (including "A Spoonful of Sugar" and "Chim Chim Cher-ee"), "Mary Poppins" is a film that has enchanted generations. Equal parts innocent fun and savvy sophistication, the artistic and commercial success of the film solidified Disney’s knack for big-screen, non-cartoon storytelling and invention. With its seamless integration of animation with live action, the film prefigured thousands of later digital and CGI-aided effects. With its pitch-perfect cast, including Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, Jane Darwell, Glynis Johns and Ed Wynn, "Mary Poppins" has remained a "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" achievement.

Men and Dust (1940)
Produced and directed by Lee Dick—a woman pioneer in the field of documentary filmmaking—and written and shot by her husband Sheldon, this labor advocacy film is about diseases plaguing miners in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Sponsored by the Tri-State Survey Committee, "Men and Dust" is a stylistically innovative documentary and a valuable ecological record of landscapes radically transformed by extractive industry.

Midnight (1939)
Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche and John Barrymore light up the screen in this Mitchell Leisen romantic comedy. Liesen is often described as a "studio contract" director—a craftsman with no particular aesthetic vision or social agenda who is efficient, consistent, controlled, with occasional flashes of panache. Leisen’s strength lay in his timing. He claimed he established the pace of a scene by varying the tone and cadence of his voice as he called "ready…right…action!" This technique served to give the actors a proper "beat" for the individual shot. In addition to Leisen’s timing, "Midnight" also boasts a screenplay by the dynamic duo of Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett. Hilarity ensues when penniless showgirl Colbert impersonates a Hungarian countess, aided by the aristocratic Barrymore, until, despite her best efforts, she falls for a lowly taxi driver (Ameche) —all this amidst a Continental sumptuousness abundant in Paramount pictures of that era. The staggering number of exceptional films released in 1939 has caused this little gem to be overlooked. However, in its day, the New York Times called "Midnight" "one of the liveliest, gayest, wittiest and naughtiest comedies of a long hard season." Reportedly unhappy with Leisen’s script changes, Wilder found the motivation to assert more creative control by becoming a director himself.

Notes on the Port of St. Francis (1951)
When Frank Stauffacher introduced the Art in Cinema film series at the San Francisco Museum of Art in 1947, he was on his way to becoming a significant influence on a generation of West Coast filmmakers. Through the series, he cultivated his knowledge of San Francisco surrealist films of the 1940s as well as the "city symphonies" produced by European filmmakers in the 1920s and 1930s. "Notes on the Port of St. Francis" is the natural progression of Stauffacher’s appreciation for the abstract synthesis of film and place. Impressionistic and evocative, the film is shaped by the director’s organization of iconic imagery, such as seascapes and city scenes, and by the juxtaposition of these visuals and the soundtrack comprised both of music and narration by Vincent Price of excerpts from Robert Louis Stevenson's 1882 essay on San Francisco. Independent film scholar Scott MacDonald speculated that the "notes" in the film’s title may refer to "both the informality of his visuals and his care with sound that may have been a subtle way of connecting his film with the European city symphonies of the twenties." Throughout the film, Macdonald observed, Stauffacher echoes Stevenson’s theme of the "City of Contrasts" by shooting from both San Francisco Bay and from the hills.

Pulp Fiction (1994)
By turns utterly derivative and audaciously original, Quentin Tarantino’s mordantly wicked Möbius strip of a movie influenced a generation of filmmakers and stands as a milestone in the evolution of independent cinema in the United States, making it one of the few films on the National Film Registry as notable for its lasting impact on the film industry as its considerable artistic merits. Directed by Tarantino from his profane and poetic script, "Pulp Fiction" is a beautifully composed tour-de-force, combining narrative elements of hardboiled crime novels and film noir with the bright widescreen visuals of Sergio Leone. The impact is profound and unforgettable.

The Quiet Man (1952)
Never one to shy away from sentiment, director John Ford used "The Quiet Man" with unadulterated adulation to pay tribute to his Irish heritage and the grandeur of the Emerald Isle. With her red hair ablaze against the enveloping lush green landscapes, Maureen O’Hara embodies the mystique of Ireland, as John Wayne personifies the indefatigable American searching for his ancestral roots, with Victor Young’s jovial score punctuating their escapades. The film and the locale are populated with characters bordering on caricature. Sly, whiskey-loving matchmaker Michaleen O’Flynn (Barry Fitzgerald), the burly town bully Will Danaher (Victor McLaglen) and the put-upon but patient Widow Tillane (Mildred Natwick) are the most vivid. Beautifully photographed in rich, saturated Technicolor by Winton C. Hoch, with picturesque art direction by Frank Hotaling, "The Quiet Man" has become a perennial St. Patrick’s Day television favorite.

The Right Stuff (1983)
At three hours and 13 minutes, Philip Kaufman’s adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s novel is an epic right out of the Golden Age of Hollywood, but thanks to its assortment of characters and human drama, it rarely drags. Director/screenwriter Kaufman ambitiously attempts to boldly go where few epics had gone before as he recounts the nascent Space Age. He takes elements of the traditional Western, mashes them up with sophisticated satire and peppers the concoction with the occasional subversive joke. As a result, Kaufman (inspired by Wolfe) creates his own history, debunking a few myths as he creates new ones. At its heart, "The Right Stuff" is a tribute to the space program’s role in generating national pride and an indictment of media-fed hero worship. Remarkable aerial sequences (created before the advent of CGI) and spot-on editing team up to deliver a movie that pushes the envelope.

Roger & Me (1989)
After decades of product ascendancy, American automakers began facing stiff commercial and design challenges in the late 1970s and 1980s from foreign automakers, especially the Japanese. Michael Moore’s controversial documentary chronicles the human toll and hemorrhaging of jobs caused by these upheavals, in this case the firing of 30,000 autoworkers by General Motors in Moore’s hometown of Flint, Michigan. As a narrative structure, Moore uses a comic device sometimes found in political campaign commercials, weaving a message around trying to find the person responsible for a wrong, in this case General Motors Chairman Roger Smith. "Roger & Me" is take-no-prisoners, advocacy documentary filmmaking, and Moore makes no apologies for his brazen, in-your-face style—he would argue the situation demands it. The themes of unfairness, inequality and the unrealized attainment of the American Dream resonate to this day, while the consequences of ferocious auto-sector competition continue, playing a key long-term role in the city of Detroit’s recent filing for bankruptcy protection.

A Virtuous Vamp (1919)
Employing a title suggested by Irving Berlin, screenwriter Anita Loos, working with husband John Emerson, crafted this charming spoof on romance in the workplace that catapulted Constance Talmadge, the object of Berlin’s unrequited affection, into stardom. During the silent era, women screenwriters, directors and producers often modified and poked fun at stereotypes of women that male filmmakers had drawn in harsher tones. The smiles of Loos’ "virtuous vamp"—as embodied by Talmadge—lead to havoc in the office, but are not life-threatening, as were the hypnotizing stares of Theda Bara’s iconic caricature that defined an earlier era. In this satire of male frailties, the knowing innocence of Loos’ character captured the imagination of poet Vachel Lindsay, who deemed the film "a gem" and called Talmadge "a new sweetheart for America."

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
Edward Albee’s 1962 stage triumph made a successful transfer to the screen in this adaption written by Ernest Lehman. The story of two warring couples and their alcohol-soaked evening of anger and exposed resentments stunned audiences with its frank, code-busting language and depictions of middle-class malaise-cum-rage. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton—who were both Academy Award nominees for their work (with Taylor winning)—each achieved career high-points in their respective roles as Martha and George, an older couple who share their explosive evening opposite a younger husband and wife, portrayed by George Segal and Sandy Dennis. "Woolf’s" claustrophobic staging and stark black-and-white cinematography, created by Haskell Wexler, echoed its characters’ rawness and emotionalism. Mike Nichols began his auspicious screen directing career with this film, in which he was already examining the absurdities and brutality of modern life, themes that would become two of his career hallmarks.

Wild Boys of the Road (1933)
Historians estimate that more than 250,000 American teens were living on the road at the height of the Great Depression, criss-crossing the country risking life, limb and incarceration while hopping freight trains. William Wellman’s "Wild Boys of the Road" portrays these young adults as determined kids matching wits and strength in numbers with railroad detectives as they shuttle from city to city unable to find work. Wellman’s "Wild Bill" persona is most evident in the action-packed train sequences. Strong performances by the young actors, particularly Frankie Darrow, round out this exemplary model of the gritty "social conscience" dramas popularized by Warner Bros. in the early 1930s.


2013 National Film Registry Selections - Complete List

by Amos Semien

Under the terms of the National Film Preservation Act, each year the Librarian of Congress names 25 films to the National Film Registry that are "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant.

Annual selections to the registry are finalized by the Librarian after reviewing hundreds of titles nominated by the public (this year 2,228 films were nominated) and conferring with Library film curators and the distinguished members of the National Film Preservation Board (NFPB). The public is urged to make nominations for the registry at NFPB’s website (www. loc.gov/film).

Films Selected for the 2013 National Film Registry:

Bless Their Little Hearts (1984)
Brandy in the Wilderness (1969)
Cicero March (1966)
Daughter of Dawn (1920)
Decasia (2002)
Ella Cinders (1926)
Forbidden Planet (1956)
Gilda (1946)
The Hole (1962)
Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
King of Jazz (1930)
The Lunch Date (1989)
The Magnificent Seven (1960)
Martha Graham Early Dance film (1931-44)
Mary Poppins (1964)
Men & Dust (1940) 
Midnight (1939)
Notes on the Port of St. Francis (1951)
Pulp Fiction (1994)
The Quiet Man (1952)
The Right Stuff (1983)
Roger & Me (1989)
A Virtuous Vamp (1919)
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966)
Wild Boys of the Road (1933)


Happy Birthday, Debbie

A lady doesn't reveal her age, so I won't go there.  Happy Birthday and many, many more.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

2014 Critics' Choice Movie Awards Nominations - Complete List

by Amos Semien

The Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) is the largest film critics organization in the United States and Canada, representing 250 television, radio and online critics.  BFCA members are the primary source of information for today's film going public.  The very first opinion a moviegoer hears about new releases at the multiplex or the art house usually comes from one of its members.  The group presents the annual Critics’ Choice Movie Awards.

The Broadcast Film Critics Association announced the nominations the 19th annual Critics’ Choice Movie Awards on Monday, December 16, 2013.  Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave and David O. Russell's American Hustle dominated the nominations with 13 mentions each.

The winners will be announced live at the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards ceremony on Thursday, January 16, 2014 from the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif. The show will be broadcast live on The CW Network at 8:00 PM ET/PT. Two hour pre-show coverage will also air in various local markets before the awards ceremony.

Aisha Tyler will host the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards ceremony. Tyler currently serves as the new host of the critically acclaimed improv show, “Whose Line Is It Anyway?,” on The CW Network and is also currently a co-host of Emmy-nominated show “The Talk.”

19th annual Critics’ Choice Movie Awards (2014) – Full list of nominations below:

American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Inside Llewyn Davis
Saving Mr. Banks
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

Christian Bale – American Hustle
Bruce Dern – Nebraska
Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave
Tom Hanks – Captain Phillips
Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club
Robert Redford – All Is Lost

Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock – Gravity
Judi Dench – Philomena
Brie Larson – Short Term 12
Meryl Streep – August: Osage County
Emma Thompson – Saving Mr. Banks

Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips
Daniel Bruhl – Rush
Bradley Cooper – American Hustle
Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave
James Gandolfini – Enough Said
Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club

Scarlett Johansson – Her
Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts – August: Osage County
June Squibb – Nebraska
Oprah Winfrey – Lee Daniels’ The Butler

Asa Butterfield – Ender’s Game
Adele Exarchopoulos – Blue Is the Warmest Color
Liam James – The Way Way Back
Sophie Nelisse – The Book Thief
Tye Sheridan – Mud

American Hustle
August: Osage County
Lee Daniels’ The Butler
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity
Paul Greengrass – Captain Phillips
Spike Jonze – Her
Steve McQueen – 12 Years a Slave
David O. Russell – American Hustle
Martin Scorsese – The Wolf of Wall Street

Eric Singer and David O. Russell – American Hustle
Woody Allen – Blue Jasmine
Spike Jonze – Her
Joel Coen & Ethan Coen – Inside Llewyn Davis
Bob Nelson – Nebraska

Tracy Letts – August: Osage County
Richard Linklater & Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke – Before Midnight
Billy Ray – Captain Phillips
Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope – Philomena
John Ridley – 12 Years a Slave
Terence Winter – The Wolf of Wall Street

Emmanuel Lubezki – Gravity
Bruno Delbonnel – Inside Llewyn Davis
Phedon Papamichael – Nebraska
Roger Deakins – Prisoners
Sean Bobbitt – 12 Years a Slave

Andy Nicholson (Production Designer), Rosie Goodwin (Set Decorator) – Gravity
Catherine Martin (Production Designer), Beverley Dunn (Set Decorator) – The Great Gatsby
K.K. Barrett (Production Designer), Gene Serdena (Set Decorator) – Her
Dan Hennah (Production Designer), Ra Vincent (Set Decorator) – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Adam Stockhausen (Production Designer), Alice Baker (Set Decorator) – 12 Years a Slave

Alan Baumgarten, Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers – American Hustle
Christopher Rouse – Captain Phillips
Alfonso Cuarón, Mark Sanger – Gravity
Daniel P. Hanley, Mike Hill – Rush
Joe Walker – 12 Years a Slave
Thelma Schoonmaker – The Wolf of Wall Street

Michael Wilkinson – American Hustle
Catherine Martin – The Great Gatsby
Bob Buck, Lesley Burkes-Harding, Ann Maskrey, Richard Taylor – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Daniel Orlandi – Saving Mr. Banks
Patricia Norris – 12 Years a Slave

American Hustle
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Lee Daniels’ The Butler
12 Years a Slave

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Iron Man 3
Pacific Rim
Star Trek into Darkness

The Croods
Despicable Me 2
Monsters University
The Wind Rises

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Iron Man 3
Lone Survivor
Star Trek into Darkness

Henry Cavill – Man of Steel
Robert Downey Jr. – Iron Man 3
Brad Pitt – World War Z
Mark Wahlberg – Lone Survivor

Sandra Bullock – Gravity
Jennifer Lawrence – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Evangeline Lilly – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Gwyneth Paltrow – Iron Man 3

American Hustle
Enough Said
The Heat
This Is the End
The Way Way Back
The World’s End

Christian Bale – American Hustle
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street
James Gandolfini – Enough Said
Simon Pegg – The World’s End
Sam Rockwell – The Way Way Back

Amy Adams – American Hustle
Sandra Bullock – The Heat
Greta Gerwig – Frances Ha
Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Enough Said
Melissa McCarthy – The Heat

The Conjuring
Star Trek into Darkness
World War Z

Blue Is the Warmest Color
The Great Beauty
The Hunt
The Past

The Act of Killing
Stories We Tell
Tim’s Vermeer
20 Feet from Stardom

Atlas – Coldplay – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Happy – Pharrell Williams – Despicable Me 2
Let It Go – Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez – Frozen
Ordinary Love – U2 – Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Please Mr. Kennedy – Justin Timberlake/Oscar Isaac/Adam Driver – Inside Llewyn Davis
Young and Beautiful – Lana Del Rey – The Great Gatsby

Steven Price – Gravity
Arcade Fire – Her
Thomas Newman – Saving Mr. Banks
Hans Zimmer – 12 Years a Slave



The Hobbit 2 Surges Past $500 Million in Worldwide Box Office

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” Tops $500 Million Worldwide

BURBANK, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” continues its climb up the worldwide box office, crossing $500 million globally. The film, a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), has thus far grossed an estimated $160.5 million domestically and $343.5 million internationally, for a worldwide estimated total of $504 million and growing.

The joint announcement was made today by Gary Barber, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios; Toby Emmerich, President and Chief Operating Officer, New Line Cinema; Sue Kroll, President of Worldwide Marketing and International Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures; Dan Fellman, President of Domestic Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures; and Veronika Kwan Vandenberg, President of International Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures.

Moving into its third week in release, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” continues to dominate the global box office, remaining the #1 film in U.S. and abroad. Internationally, the film has released in 61 territories, with key markets China and Japan set to open in the coming months.

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” is the second film in Oscar®-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson’s epic “The Hobbit” Trilogy, based on the timeless novel by J.R.R. Tolkien. The first film, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” was released on December 14, 2012, and went on to become a billion dollar success at the worldwide box office.

In making the announcement, Fellman said, “Peter Jackson has delivered the perfect holiday treat for moviegoers. We anticipate that the film will continue to have terrific playability well into the new year as more people join in the adventure or return to experience it again and again.”

Kwan Vandenberg added, “With fantastic box office numbers and word-of-mouth continuing to build internationally, ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ is a global event. Warner Bros. joins our partners at New Line and MGM in congratulating Peter Jackson, his cast and crew, and everyone involved in this film on this milestone.”

From Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson comes “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” the second in a trilogy of films adapting the enduringly popular masterpiece The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Ian McKellen returns as Gandalf the Grey, with Martin Freeman in the central role of Bilbo Baggins, and Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield. The international ensemble cast is led by Benedict Cumberbatch, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Stephen Fry, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt, and Orlando Bloom as Legolas. The film also stars Mikael Persbrandt, Sylvester McCoy, Aidan Turner, Dean O’Gorman, Graham McTavish, Adam Brown, Peter Hambleton, John Callen, Mark Hadlow, Jed Brophy, William Kircher, Stephen Hunter, Ryan Gage, John Bell, Manu Bennett and Lawrence Makoare.

The screenplay for “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” is by Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson & Guillermo del Toro based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien. Jackson also produced the film, together with Carolynne Cunningham, Zane Weiner and Fran Walsh. The executive producers are Alan Horn, Toby Emmerich, Ken Kamins and Carolyn Blackwood, with Philippa Boyens and Eileen Moran serving as co-producers.

New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Present a WingNut Films Production, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.” The film is a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), with New Line managing production. Warner Bros. Pictures is handling worldwide theatrical distribution, with select international territories as well as all international television distribution being handled by MGM.


Friday, December 27, 2013

2014 London Critics' Circle Film Awards - Complete Nominations List

by Amos Semien

The London Film Critics’ Circle is part of a larger organization, The Critics’ Circle, which makes an annual award for Services to the Arts.  This circle is comprised of the five sections:  dance, drama, film, music, and visual arts.

On its website, The Circle says that its aims are “to promote the art of criticism, to uphold its integrity in practice, to foster and safeguard members’ professional interests, to provide opportunities to meet, and to support the advancement of the arts.”  Currently there are more than 400 members of the Circle, mostly from the UK, and the majority of them write regularly for national and regional newspapers and magazines.  Membership is by invitation.

The following is the press release announcing the 34th edition of the film awards:

London Critics’ Circle Announces 2014 Film Awards Nominations

Gary Oldman to accept the Dilys Powell Award For Excellence In Film, while Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave leads the field with 9 nominations

The nominations for the 34th London Critics' Circle Film Awards were announced, with British director Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave topping members’ ballots with 9 nominations.

Gary Oldman will be accepting the Circle’s most prestigious award, the Dilys Powell Award For Excellence In Film at the London Critics' Circle Film Awards on Sunday, February 2, 2014. He comments: “I am truly honoured, and humbled to be named for this prestigious award, especially when one considers both who is doing the awarding and also the inspirational list of past recipients. I can’t wait to be there.”

The London Critics' Circle Film Awards are voted for by the UK’s longest standing and most prestigious critical organisation, which boasts 140 members who between them see every one of the hundreds of films released in the UK each year. The Circle's Film Section Chair, Jason Solomons comments: "The London critics have yet again voted for a brilliant mix of films that reflects London's position as a hub of world cinema culture, both in production and appreciation.

"All the nominated films and performances have found champions and crucial support from London critics as they journey around the world, from their debuts at festivals including Cannes, Venice, Toronto, Berlin, Sundance, London and Edinburgh, where our critics show that their taste, knowledge, passion and influence remain vital and highly respected aspects of film culture. More than 200 different films were nominated on the ballots.

"I look forward to finding out our winners and send early congratulations to Gary Oldman, an icon of London cinema who has given us all pride and pleasure watching his outstanding, constantly surprising and thrilling screen career.”

12 Years A Slave leads the pack with nominations in the following categories: Film of the Year, Best Actor (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Best Director (Steve McQueen), Supporting Actor (Michael Fassbender), Supporting Actress (Lupita Nyong'o), Screenwriter (John Ridley), British Actor (Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender) and Technical Achievement (Sean Bobbitt, Cinematography). 12 Years A Slave will be released in the UK on 10 January 2014.

The next strongest showing at the nominations stage is for Stephen Frears’ Philomena, with nominations for British Film, Best Actress (Judi Dench), British Actor (Steve Coogan), British Actress (Judi Dench) and Screenwriter (Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope) bringing the picture’s total to five nominations.

Also receiving multiple nominations were Woody Allen’s BLUE JASMINE, Jon Baird's FILTH, Alfonso Cuarón’s GRAVITY and Martin Scorsese’s THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, with four nods each. Following hot on their heels, the following films all received three nominations each: David O. Russell’s American Hustle, Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue Is the Warmest Colour, Paul Greengrass’ Captain Phillips, Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha, Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty, the Coen Brother’s Inside Llewyn Davis, Alexander Payne’s Nebraska and Clio Barnard’s The Selfish Giant.


Blue Is the Warmest Colour
Blue Jasmine
Frances Ha
The Great Beauty
Inside Llewyn Davis
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

Blue Is the Warmest Colour
Caesar Must Die
The Great Beauty
A Hijacking

A Field in England
The Selfish Giant

The Act of Killing
Beware of Mr Baker
Stories We Tell
We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks

Bruce Dern - Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio - The Wolf of Wall Street
Michael Douglas - Behind the Candelabra
Chiwetel Ejiofor - 12 Years a Slave
Tom Hanks - Captain Phillips

Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock - Gravity
Judi Dench - Philomena
Adèle Exarchopoulos - Blue Is the Warmest Colour
Greta Gerwig - Frances Ha

Barkhad Abdi - Captain Phillips
Michael Fassbender - 12 Years a Slave
James Gandolfini - Enough Said
Tom Hanks - Saving Mr Banks
Jared Leto - Dallas Buyers Club

Naomie Harris - Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Sally Hawkins - Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence - American Hustle
Lupita Nyong'o - 12 Years a Slave
June Squibb - Nebraska

Christian Bale - American Hustle / Out of the Furnace
Steve Coogan - Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa / The Look of Love / Philomena / What Maisie Knew
Chiwetel Ejiofor - 12 Years a Slave
Michael Fassbender - The Counsellor / 12 Years a Slave
James McAvoy - Filth / Trance / Welcome to the Punch

Judi Dench - Philomena
Lindsay Duncan - About Time / Last Passenger / Le Week-end
Naomie Harris - Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Sally Hawkins - Blue Jasmine
Emma Thompson - Beautiful Creatures / Saving Mr Banks

Conner Chapman - The Selfish Giant
Saoirse Ronan - Byzantium / The Host / How I Live Now
Eloise Laurence - Broken
George MacKay - Breakfast With Jonny Wilkinson / For Those in Peril / How I Live Now / Sunshine on Leith
Shaun Thomas - The Selfish Giant

Alfonso Cuarón - Gravity
Paul Greengrass - Captain Phillips
Steve McQueen - 12 Years a Slave
Paolo Sorrentino - The Great Beauty
Martin Scorsese - The Wolf of Wall Street

Ethan Coen & Joel Coen - Inside Llewyn Davis
Spike Jonze - Her
Steve Coogan & Jeff Pope - Philomena
John Ridley - 12 Years a Slave
Terence Winter - The Wolf of Wall Street

Jon S Baird - Filth
Scott Graham - Shell
Marcus Markou - Papadopoulos & Sons
Rufus Norris - Broken
Paul Wright - For Those in Peril

American Hustle - Judy Becker, production design
Behind the Candelabra - Howard Cummings, production design
Filth - Mark Eckersley, editing
Frances Ha - Sam Levy, cinematography
Gravity - Tim Webber, visual effects
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - Trish Summerville, costumes
Inside Llewyn Davis - T Bone Burnett, music
Stoker - Kurt Swanson & Bart Mueller, costumes
12 Years a Slave - Sean Bobbitt, cinematography
Upstream Colour - Johnny Marshall, sound design



Thursday, December 26, 2013

Review: Jack Benny is Eternally Cool in "To Be or Not to Be" (Remembering Jack Benny)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 161 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

To Be or Not to Be (1942) – Black & White
Running time:  99 minutes (1 hour, 39 minutes)
WRITERS:  Edwin Justus Mayer; from a story by Melchior Lengyel
EDITOR:  Dorothy Spencer
COMPOSER: Werner R. Heymann
Academy Award nominee


Starring:  Carole Lombard, Jack Benny, Robert Stack, Felix Bressart, Lionel Atwill, Stanley Ridges, Sig Ruman, Tom Dugan, Charles Halton, George Lynn, Henry Victor, Maude Eburne, Halliwell Hobbes, and Miles Mander

The subject of this movie review is To Be or Not to Be, a 1942 film starring Carole Lombard and Jack Benny.  The film was produced and directed by Ernst Lubitsch, who also wrote the film’s original story with Melchior Lengyel, although Lubitsch did not receive a screen credit.  Set during the Nazi occupation of Poland, the film focuses on an acting troupe involved in a Polish soldier’s efforts to track down a German spy.

If you’ve ever seen the 1983 Mel Brooks’ film, To Be or Not to Be and wondered how anyone could eke laughs out of the Nazi’s invading Poland, part of that most contentious time in recent history, World War II, then imagine how shocked many moviegoers must have been when they the original To Be or Not to Be, a 1942 directed by Ernst Lubitsch.

In occupied Poland, ham actor Joseph Tura (Jack Benny) leads a troupe of actors in a game of subterfuge against the Nazi’s.  It begins with the Nazi’s invasion of Poland.  At the same time, Tura’s wife, Maria (Carole Lombard, who was killed in a plane crash before this film was release), is returning the affections a young military pilot, Lt. Stanislav Sobinski (Robert Stack), who often visits the Turas’ theatre, the Polski, to woo Maria.  After the invasion, Sobinski escapes to England where he continues the fight against the Nazis.  However, he must sneak back into Poland to stop Prof. Alexander Siletsky (Stanley Ridges), a Nazi spy who has information on the efforts of the Resistance in Poland.  Upon discovering Maria and Sobinski’s playful “affair,” Tura is reluctant to help the young pilot, but his patriotism wins the day.  Tura and his ragtag troupe of actors don Nazi uniforms and march right into the heart of the Gestapo headquarters in Warsaw to take on Nazi Col. Ehrhardt (Sig Ruman), but his is a game not only to save the Resistance, but also save their own necks.

Ernst Lubitsch is perhaps one of Hollywood’s best directors of satire and subtle comedy, and his phrase, “The Lubitsch Touch,” became famous because his films reflected his sophisticated wit and style.  Taking nothing away from a novel concept and unconventional comic script or even denying the talents of the cast, a film like To Be or Not to Be could be a disaster without a master helmsman.  Lubitsch (who directed Ninotchka, The Shop Around the Corner, and Heaven Can Wait among other) gracefully mixes menace and comic in an erudite manner that manages to poke fun at the Nazi’s (essentially this movie is the filmmakers’ way of thumbing their noses at Nazi Germany), while satirizing the Nazis’ insatiable need to conquer and their arrogance in believing that they had all the right answers.  While Mel Brooks remake was broad slapstick presented as if it were a stage show (vaudeville?), Lubitsch film is a clever farce that treads broad comedy with highly understated sexual innuendo, cunning wordplay, and sly mischief.

Although they’re good, most of the cast comes across as either workman-like character actors and glorified extras, which is not an insult to them.  There are some standout performances.  Sig Ruman as Col. Ehrhardt personifies this film’s monsters/clowns approach to the Nazis, and Henry Victor is menacing as the machine-like Capt. Schulz, so much so that he is the victim of some of the film’s best humor.  Carole Lombard pretty much owns the first half of the film, and while the second half relegates her to a supporting player, it allows her breezy sexiness and comedic talents to shine through.  Whenever she dresses in an evening gown, the audience can see why she was one of those special actresses who personified the glamour of old Hollywood.

The second half of the film belongs to Jack Benny.  His gentle sarcasm, mock self-deprecating humor, and his clueless belief that he was more talented than he was – all part of his act – solidifies this film’s unusual mixture of farce, slapstick, patriotism, and idealism.  Benny is a sly fox and his Joseph Tura knows he’s smarter than the Nazi’s, even when he’s in mortal danger.  His performance mixes leading man as comic hero and comic hero as overconfident ringmaster.  The joke was supposed to be on Benny’s Joseph Tura, and it is for a long time.  Still, Tura will get the last laugh no matter how many times the joke’s on him.  It is that uncommon nature that makes To Be or Not to Be an inimitable comedy and drama.

8 of 10

1943 Academy Awards:  1 nomination: Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture (Werner R. Heymann)

1996 National Film Preservation Board, USA:  National Film Registry

Friday, July 28, 2006

Updated:  Thursday, December 26, 2013

The text is copyright © 2013 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

Review: 1983 Version of "To Be or Not to Be" Still a Favorite

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 119 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

To Be or Not to Be (1983)
Running time:  107 minutes (1 hour, 47 minutes)
DIRECTOR:  Alan Johnson
WRITERS:  Ronny Graham and Thomas Meehan (based upon the 1942 screenplay by Edwin Justus Mayer; from a story by Ernst Lubitsch and Melchior Lengyel)
PRODUCER:  Mel Brooks
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Gerald Hirschfeld
EDITOR:  Alan Balsam
COMPOSER:  John Morris
Academy Award nominee

COMEDY/DRAMA with elements of music and war

Starring:  Mel Brooks, Anne Bancroft, Tim Matheson, Charles Durning, Christopher Lloyd, José Ferrer, Ronny Graham, Estelle Reiner, Zale Kessler, Jack Riley, Lewis J. Stradlen, George Gaynes, George Wyner, and James Haake

The subject of this movie review is To Be or Not to Be, a 1983 comedy-drama starring Anne Bancroft and Mel Brooks, who also produced the film.  Directed by Alan Johnson, To Be or Not to Be is a remake of the 1942 film, To Be or Not to Be, which starred Carole Lombard and Jack Benny.  In the 1983 film, a bad Polish actor is depressed that World War II has complicated his professional life and that his wife has a habit of entertaining young Polish officers.  One of her young officers, however, is about to get the actor and his acting troupe involved in a complicated plot against the Nazis.

Frederick Bronski (Mel Brooks) and his wife, Anna (Anne Bancroft), are impresarios of a Polish acting troupe in Warsaw, Poland circa 1939.  Their Bronski Follies, performed of course in the Bronski Theatre, is the toast of the city.  However, Germany invades Poland, and, arriving in Warsaw, the Nazis take the Bronskis’ stately home as their headquarters and also close the theatre.

Later, the Bronskis and their acting ensemble get involved with Lt. Andre Sobinski (Tim Matheson), a young Polish fighter pilot (who is smitten with Anna), in a complex subterfuge to prevent the Germans from getting their hands on a list of Polish underground fighters.  Things get more complicated when Nazi Colonel Erhardt (Charles Durning, in a performance that earned him an Oscar nod) orders the Bronski Theatre open again to perform for the Furher himself when Adolf Hitler visits Warsaw.

Real-life husband and wife Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft made a great comic team in To Be or Not to Be, a zesty remake of Ernst Lubitsch’s 1942 film classic starring Carole Lombard and Jack Benny.  This film is, of course, filled with delightful musical numbers and a splendid array of costumes, clothes, and uniforms.  But what would a Mel Brooks film be without comedy?

Although Brooks did not direct To Be or Not to Be (the honor went to Alan Johnson), this is clearly a “Mel Brooks movie.”  It isn’t a parody or send-up of anything (as Brooks films are want to be).  It is, however, a witty and often dark farce marked by suave comedy and droll dialogue.  The Nazis are played for fun (Christopher Lloyd and Charles Durning make a comical duo), but their awful menace is always present.  The filmmakers managed to be both respectful and funny with history.  While To Be or Not to Be isn’t as funny as Blazing Saddles or Young Frankenstein, it isn’t far behind those two comic classics, and it is a fine comedy-historical in the vein of Brooks’ History of the World, Part I.

8 of 10

1984 Academy Awards:  1 nomination: “Best Actor in a Supporting Role” (Charles Durning)

1984 Golden Globes:  2 nominations: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical” (Anne Bancroft) and “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Charles Durning)

Updated:  Thursday, December 26, 2013

The text is copyright © 2013 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Greetings from Negromancer

To everyone:  Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Seasons Greetings.

Review: "A Christmas Story" is Truly Timeless

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 4 (of 2007) by Leroy Douresseaux

A Christmas Story (1983)
Running time:  93 minutes (1 hour, 33 minutes)
DIRECTOR:  Bob Clark
WRITERS:  Jean Sheperd, Leigh Brown, and Bob Clark (based upon the book In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash)
PRODUCERS:  Bob Clark and René Dupont
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Reginald H. Morris (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Stan Cole
COMPOSERS:  Paul Zaza and Carl Zittrer


Starring:  Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin, Peter Billingsley, Ian Petrella, Scott Schwartz, R.D. Robb, Tedde Moore, Yano Anaya, Zack Ward, Jeff Gillen, and Jean Shepherd (also narrator)

The subject of this movie review is A Christmas Story, a 1983 Christmas movie from director Bob Clark.  Although it was produced by an American film studio, MGM, some of the movie was shot in Canada.  A Christmas Story won two Genie Awards (then, Canada’s equivalent of the Oscars) for its direction and screenplay and was nominated in seven other categories, including “Best Motion Picture.”  In the film, a nine-year-old boy tries to convince his parents, his teacher, and Santa that a Red Ryder B.B. gun really is an appropriate gift for him.

Writer/director Bob Clark turned humorist Jean Shepard’s nostalgic view of the Christmas season in 1940’s Indiana into a classic holiday movie, A Christmas Story.  All nine-year old Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) really wants for Christmas is a Red Ryder 200-shot range model air rifle – a BB gun.

The adults in his life, even Ralphie’s parents, Mrs. Parker (Melinda Dillon) and The Old Man aka Mr. Parker (Darren McGavin), think that the Red Ryder BB Gun is not a safe toy, or as they keep telling him, “You’ll shoot your eye out!”  While waging an all-out campaign for his BB gun, Ralphie dodges bullies and deals with his little brother, Randy’s (Ian Petrella) food issues.  Even Mr. Parker has his struggles as he fights a series of never-ending battles with his neighbor’s large pack of dogs, his home’s troublesome furnace, and an endless number of blown fuses.

I’m not sure why this delightful little Christmas movie works, but it does.  The narration isn’t always good; sometimes it sounds unprofessional.  The directing is exceedingly ordinary, but that adds a certain realism to movie.  Perhaps, A Christmas Story’s success is based on how real and authentic it seems.  Although set in the early 1940’s, A Christmas Story feels timeless.  Set in a town based upon Hammond, Indiana, where co-screenwriter Jean Shepherd grew up (but filmed largely in Cleveland, Ohio), the movie looks like it could take place in “Anytown, U.S.A.”

Wonderful performances help create the ambience.  Darren McGavin, who plays The Old Man, is always a welcomed sight, and Melinda Dillon is pitch perfect as the ideal middle-American mom.  What is really surprising is how good the child actors are, especially the leads Peter Billingsley and Ian Petrella.  Maybe, it’s because the child actors in this movie are real kids who act like real kids, while child actors often seem to struggle with portraying what they actually are – children.  As Ralphie Parker, Billingsley personifies the kid who just wants one thing for Christmas so badly, knowing that he might not get it.

In the end, maybe Billingsley’s performance is what makes A Christmas Story an indispensable Christmas movie, but there’s also much more in this gem of a yuletide flick to love.

7 of 10

Saturday, January 6, 2007

2012 National Film Preservation Board, USA:  National Film Registry

Updated:  Monday, December 23, 2013

The text is copyright © 2013 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

"12 Years a Slave" Captures Las Vegas Film Critics Society

by Amos Semien

The Las Vegas Film Critics Society (LVFCS) awarded director Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave as the "Best Picture" of 2013.  McQueen also earned the "Best Director" prize.  John Goodman received the William Holden Lifetime Achievement Award.

The LVFCS is a non-profit organization that describes itself as “progressive” and “dedicated to the advancement and preservation of film.”  The LVFCS membership is comprised of “select” print, television and internet film critics in the Las Vegas area. The LVFCS presents its "Sierra" awards each year for the best in film, including The William Holden Lifetime Achievement Award, which is named for the late Academy Award winning actor.

2013 Sierra Award winners:

Best Picture
“12 Years a Slave”

Best Actor
Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”

Best Actress
Emma Thompson, “Saving Mr. Banks”

Best Supporting Actor
Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”

Best Supporting Actress
Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”

Best Director
Steve McQueen, “12 Years a Slave”

Best Screenplay
Spike Jonze, “Her”

Best Cinematography
Emmanuel Lubezki, “Gravity”

Best Film Editing
Alfonso Cuaron & Mark Sanger, “Gravity”

Best Costume Design
Patricia Norris, “12 Years a Slave”

Best Art Direction
Andy Nicholson, “Gravity”

Best Visual Effects

Best Foreign Film
“Blue is the Warmest Color”

Best Documentary

Best Animated Film

Best Family Film
“Saving Mr. Banks”

Best Horror/Sci-Fi Film
“Pacific Rim”

Best Comedy Film
“This is the End”

Best Action Film
“Lone Survivor”

Best Score
Hans Zimmer, “12 Years a Slave”

Best Song
“Please Mr. Kennedy,” – “Inside Llewyn Davis”

Youth in Film
Tye Sheridan, “Mud”

Best DVD (Packaging, Design and Content):
“Breaking Bad – The Complete Series” (Blu-Ray)

LVFCS Top 10 Films of 2013
1.     12 Years a Slave
2.     Dallas Buyers Club
3.     Gravity
4.     The Wolf of Wall Street
5.     American Hustle
6.     Inside Llewyn Davis
7.     Saving Mr. Banks
8.     Nebraska
9.     Her
10.   Lone Survivor

William Holden Lifetime Achievement Award:  John Goodman



"The Matrix," "Dirty Harry" Among 2012 National Film Registry

[Just doing some catching up with the release of the 2013 National Film Registry.]

2012 National Film Registry Picks in A League of Their Own

NFL Film, “A Christmas Story,” “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” Among Registry Additions

The excitement of national football; the first black star of an American feature-length film; the visionary battle between man and machine; and an award-winning actress born yesterday are part of a kaleidoscope of cinematic moments captured on film and tapped for preservation. The Librarian of Congress James H. Billington today named 25 motion pictures that have been selected for inclusion in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. These cinematic treasures represent important cultural, artistic and historic achievements in filmmaking.

"Established by Congress in 1989, the National Film Registry spotlights the importance of preserving America’s unparalleled film heritage," said Billington. "These films are not selected as the ‘best’ American films of all time, but rather as works of enduring importance to American culture. They reflect who we are as a people and as a nation."

Spanning the period 1897-1999, the films named to the registry include Hollywood classics, documentaries, early films, and independent and experimental motion pictures. This year’s selections bring the number of films in the registry to 600.

The films include such movie classics as "Born Yesterday," featuring Judy Holliday’s Academy Award-winning performance; and Truman Capote’s "Breakfast at Tiffany’s," starring Audrey Hepburn. Among the documentaries named to the registry are "The Times of Harvey Milk," a revealing portrait of San Francisco’s first openly gay elected official; "One Survivor Remembers," an Academy Award-winning documentary short about Holocaust survivor Gerda Weissmann Klein; and Ellen Bruno’s documentary about the struggle of the Cambodian people to rebuild in the aftermath of Pol Pot’s killing fields.

The creative diversity of American filmmakers is evident in the selections of independent and experimental films, which include Nathaniel Dorsky’s "Hours for Jerome," Richard Linklater’s "Slacker" and the Kodachrome Color Motion Picture Test film of 1922. Among the cinema firsts are "They Call It Pro Football," which has been described as the "Citizen Kane" of sports movies; and the 1914 version of "Uncle Tom’s Cabin," which features the first black actor to star in a feature-length American film. The actor Sam Lucas made theatrical history when he also appeared in the lead role in the stage production of "Uncle Tom’s Cabin" in 1878.

Under the terms of the National Film Preservation Act, each year the Librarian of Congress names 25 films to the National Film Registry that are "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant. The films must be at least 10 years old. The Librarian makes the annual selections to the registry after reviewing hundreds of titles nominated by the public and conferring with Library film curators and the distinguished members of the National Film Preservation Board (NFPB). The public is urged to make nominations for next year’s registry at the NFPB’s website (www.loc.gov/film/).

For each title named to the registry, the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation works to ensure that the film is preserved for future generations, either through the Library’s motion picture preservation program or through collaborative ventures with other archives, motion picture studios and independent filmmakers. The Packard Campus is a state-of-the-art facility where the nation’s library acquires, preserves and provides access to the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of films, television programs, radio broadcasts and sound recordings (www.loc.gov/avconservation/).

The Packard Campus is home to more than 6 million collection items. It provides staff support for the Library of Congress National Film Preservation Board, the National Recording Preservation Board and the National Registries for film and recorded sound.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. It seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its vast collections, programs and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov.

2012 National Film Registry:

3:10 to Yuma (1957)
Considered to be one of the best westerns of the 1950s, "3:10 to Yuma" has gained in stature since its original release as audiences have recognized the progressive insight the film provides into the psychology of its two main characters that becomes vividly exposed during scenes of heightened tension. Frankie Laine sang the film’s popular theme song, also titled "3:10 to Yuma." Often compared favorably with "High Noon," this innovative western from director Delmer Daves starred Glenn Ford and Van Heflin in roles cast against type and was based on a short story by Elmore Leonard.

Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
Director Otto Preminger brought a new cinematic frankness to film with this gripping crime-and-trial movie shot on location in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where the incident on which it was based had occurred. Controversial in its day due to its blunt language and willingness to openly discuss adult themes, "Anatomy"—starring James Stewart, Ben Gazzara and Lee Remick—endures today for its first-rate drama and suspense, and its informed perspective on the legal system. The film includes an innovative jazz score by Duke Ellington and one of Saul Bass’s most memorable opening title sequences.

The Augustas (1930s-1950s)
Scott Nixon, a traveling salesman based in Augusta, Ga., was an avid member of the Amateur Cinema League who enjoyed recording his travels on film. In this 16-minute silent film, Nixon documents some 38 streets, storefronts and cities named Augusta in such far-flung locales as Montana and Maine. Arranged with no apparent rhyme or reason, the film strings together brief snapshots of these Augustas, many of which are indicated at pencil-point on a train timetable or roadmap. Nixon photographed his odyssey using both 8mm and 16mm cameras loaded with black-and-white and color film, amassing 26,000 feet of film that now resides at the University of South Carolina. While Nixon’s film does not illuminate the historical or present-day significance of these towns, it binds them together under the umbrella of Americana. Whether intentionally or coincidentally, this amateur auteur seems to juxtapose the name’s lofty origin—‘august,’ meaning great or venerable—with the unspectacular nature of everyday life in small-town America.

Born Yesterday (1950)
Judy Holliday’s sparkling lead performance as not-so-dumb "dumb blonde" Billie Dawn anchors this comedy classic based on Garson Kanin’s play and directed for the screen by George Cukor. Kanin’s satire on corruption in Washington, D.C., adapted for the screen by Albert Mannheimer, is full of charm and wit while subtly addressing issues of class, gender, social standing and American politics. Holliday’s work in the film (a role she had previously played on Broadway) was honored with the Academy Award for Best Actress and has endured as one of the era’s most finely realized comedy performances.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
Truman Capote’s acclaimed novella—the bitter story of self-invented Manhattan call girl Holly Golightly—arrived on the big screen purged of its risqué dialogue and unhappy ending. George Axelrod’s screenplay excised explicit references to Holly’s livelihood and added an emotionally moving romance, resulting, in Capote’s view, in "a mawkish valentine to New York City." Capote believed that Marilyn Monroe would have been perfect for the film and judged Audrey Hepburn, who landed the lead, "just wrong for the part." Critics and audiences, however, have disagreed. The Los Angeles Times stated, "Miss Hepburn makes the complex Holly a vivid, intriguing figure." Feminist critics in recent times have valued Hepburn’s portrayals of the period as providing a welcome alternative female role model to the dominant sultry siren of the 1950s. Hepburn conveyed intelligent curiosity, exuberant impetuosity, delicacy combined with strength, and authenticity that often emerged behind a knowingly false facade. Critics also have lauded the movie’s director Blake Edwards for his creative visual gags and facility at navigating the film’s abrupt changes in tone. Composer Henry Mancini’s classic "Moon River," featuring lyrics by Johnny Mercer, also received critical acclaim. Mancini considered Hepburn’s wistful rendition of the song on guitar the best he had heard.

A Christmas Story (1983)
Humorist Jean Shepherd narrates this memoir of growing up in Hammond, Ind., during the 1940s when his greatest ambition was to receive a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. The film is based in part on Shepherd’s 1966 compilation of short stories titled "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash," which originated on his radio and television programs. Writer-director Bob Clark had long dreamed of making a movie based on Shepherd’s work and his reverence for the material shows through as detail after nostalgic detail rings true with period flavor. Dozens of small but expertly realized moments reflect an astute understanding of human nature. Peter Billingsley—with his cherubic cheeks, oversized glasses and giddy grin—portrays Shepherd as a boy. Darren McGavin and Melinda Dillon are his harried-yet-lovable parents.

The Corbett-Fitzsimmons Title Fight (1897)
Independently produced motion picture recordings of famous boxing contests were a leading factor in establishing the commercial success of movies in the late 19th century. Championship boxing matches were the most widely popular sporting contests in America in that era, even though the sport was banned in many states in the 1890s. Soon after Nevada legalized boxing in 1897, the Corbett-Fitzsimmons title fight was held in that state in Carson City on St. Patrick’s Day of that year. The film recorded the introductions of famous personalities in attendance and all 14 of the fight’s three-minute rounds, plus the one-minute breaks between rounds. With a running time of approximately 100 minutes, "The Corbett-Fitzsimmons Title Fight" was the longest movie produced at that time. Films of championship matches before 1897 had been unsuccessful because they ended too quickly with knockouts, leaving movie audiences unwilling to pay high-ticket prices to see such short films. "Corbett-Fitzsimmons" was a tremendous commercial success for the producers and contestants James J. Corbett and Bob Fitzsimmons (the victor), generating an estimated $750,000 in income during the several years that it remained in distribution. This film also is deserving of a footnote in the technical history of motion pictures. Producers of early boxing films protected their films from piracy by engineering film printers and projectors that could only accept film stock of a proprietary size. The film prints of the fight were manufactured in a unique 63mm format that could only be run on a special projector advertised as "The Veriscope."

Dirty Harry (1971)
Clint Eastwood’s role as rogue police officer Harry Callahan in director Don Siegel’s action-packed, controversial paean to vigilante justice marked a major turning point in Eastwood’s career. A top 10 box-office hit after its release, "Dirty Harry" struck a nerve in the era’s politically polarized atmosphere with those who believed that concern over suspects’ rights had gone too far. While a number of critics characterized the film as "fascistic," Eastwood countered that Harry, who disregards police procedure and disobeys his superiors, represents "a fantasy character" who "does all the things people would like to do in real life but can’t." "Dirty Harry," he stated later, was ahead of its time, putting the "rights of the victim" above those of the accused. The film’s kinesthetic direction and editing laid the aesthetic groundwork for many of the 1970s’ gritty, realistic police dramas.

Hours for Jerome: Parts 1 and 2 (1980-82)
Nathaniel Dorsky shot the footage for what would become his silent tone poem, "Hours for Jerome," between 1966 and 1970. He edited that footage over a two-year period. The film’s title evokes the liturgical "Book of Hours," a medieval series of devotional prayers recited at eight-hour intervals throughout the day. Dorsky’s personal devotional loosely records the daily events of the filmmaker and his partner as an arrangement of images, energies and illuminations. The camera intimately surveys the surroundings, from the pastoral to the cosmopolitan, as fragments of light revolve around the four seasons. "Part 1" presents spring through summer and "Part 2" looks at fall and winter—a full year in 45 minutes. Named filmmaker of the decade in 2010 by Film Comment magazine, Dorsky creates his works to be projected at silent speed, between 17 and 20 frames per second instead of the usual 24 frames per second for sound film. Projecting his films at sound film speed, he writes, "is to strip them of their ability to open the heart and speak properly to their audience. Not only is the specific use of time violated, but the flickering threshold of cinema’s illusion—a major player in these works—is obscured."

The Kidnappers Foil (1930s-1950s)
For three decades, Dallas native Melton Barker and his company traveled through the southern and central sections of the United States filming local children acting, singing and dancing in two-reel narrative films, all of which Barker titled "The Kidnappers Foil." Barker recognized that many people enjoyed seeing themselves, their children and their communities on film. Since home movies were an expensive hobby, he developed a business to provide them. Other itinerant filmmakers produced similar fare, but Barker appears to have been the most prolific. Enlisting local movie theaters and newspapers to sponsor and promote the productions, Barker auditioned children and offered "acting lessons" to the most promising for a fee of a few dollars. He then assembled 50 to 75 would-be Shirley Temples and Jackie Coopers, ages 3 to 12, to act out the melodramatic story: a young girl is kidnapped from her birthday party and eventually rescued by a search party of local kids. After the "rescue," the relieved townsfolk would celebrate with a party where the budding stars showcased their musical talents. A few weeks after filming, the town would screen the 15- to 20-minute picture to the delight of the local audience. Most prints of these films no longer exist, although some have been discovered in vintage movie houses or local historical societies. The Texas Archive of the Moving Image holds a collection of these itinerant films and hosts Internet resources for those who appeared in them as children.

Kodachrome Color Motion Picture Tests (1922)
This two-color (green-blue and red) film was produced as a demonstration reel at the Paragon Studios in Fort Lee, New Jersey, under the direction of Kodak scientist John Capstaff. It features leading actresses, including Mae Murray, Hope Hampton, and Mary Eaton, posing and miming for the camera to showcase the capability of the complex Kodachrome process to capture their translucent movie star complexions and colorful, high-fashion clothing. Hampton wears costumes designed for "The Light in the Dark," the first commercial feature film to incorporate scenes filmed with the Kodachrome process. During the first three decades of motion picture history, the most practical methods for adding colors to 35mm prints filmed on black-and-white film stock had been through laborious processes by which separate colors were either painted on individual film frames by hand or added by overlaying mechanically produced stencils on prints and applying colors in sequence. While aesthetically pleasing, these color additive methods were complicated and costly. Soon after 1900, inventors in several countries began experimenting with ways to advance the chemistry of color movies and create film stocks capable of reproducing the true colors of nature. Leading the way in the U.S. were Technicolor in 1912 and Eastman Kodak, starting in 1914. The Kodachrome Color Motion Picture Tests of 1922 was the first publicly demonstrated color film to attract the general interest of the American film industry. Many feature films produced by major studios incorporated two-color sequences using Kodachrome and the rival Technicolor film stocks until three-strip Technicolor became the industry standard in the late 1930s.

A League of Their Own (1992)
Director Penny Marshall used the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (1943-1954) as a backdrop for this heartfelt comedy-drama. "A League of Their Own," featuring an ensemble cast that includes Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell, not only illuminates this fascinating, under-reported aspect of American sports history, but also effectively examines women’s changing roles during wartime. Rich with period detail and equally complex performances—especially Davis as a team ringer and Hanks as the down-on-his-luck coach—Marshall and her company delivered an enjoyably nostalgic film about women’s choices and solidarity during World War II that was both funny and feminist.

The Matrix (1999)
A visionary and complex film, the science-fiction epic "The Matrix" employed state-of-the-art special effects, production design and computer-generated animation to tell a story—steeped in mythological, literary, and philosophical references—about a revolt against a conspiratorial regime. The film’s visual style, drawing on the work of Hong Kong action film directors and Japanese anime films, altered science fiction filmmaking practices with its innovative digital techniques designed to enhance action sequences. Directors Andy and Lana Wachowski and visual effects supervisor John Gaeta (who received an Academy Award for his efforts) expertly exploited a digitally enhanced simulation of variable-speed cinematography to gain ultimate control over time and movement within images. The film’s myriad special effects, however, do not undermine its fundamentally traditional, if paranoid, story of man against machine.

The Middleton Family at the New York World’s Fair (1939)
Produced by Westinghouse for the 1939 World’s Fair, this industrial film is a striking hour-long time capsule that documents that historic event within a moralistic narrative. Shot in Technicolor, the film follows a fictional Indiana family of five (mom, dad, son, daughter and grandma) as they venture from grandma’s quaint house in Long Island to the fair’s popular pavilions. The whole family enjoys the gleaming sights, especially the futuristic technologies located in the Westinghouse Pavilion (including something called "television"). While the entire family is affected by the visit, none are changed so much as daughter Babs (played by a young Marjorie Lord), who eventually sours on her foreign-born, anti-capitalistic boyfriend in favor of a hometown electrical engineer who works at the fair. Both charming and heavy-handed, "The Middleton Family" provides latter-day audiences with a vibrant documentary record of the fair’s technological achievements and the heartland values of the age.

One Survivor Remembers (1995)
In this Academy Award-winning documentary short film by Kary Antholis, Holocaust survivor Gerda Weissmann Klein recounts her six-year ordeal as a victim of Nazi cruelty. At age 16, her comfortable life was shattered by the Nazi invasion of Poland. She and her family were sent to concentration and slave labor camps. She alone survived. Mixing footage shot in contemporary Europe at key locations of Klein’s story with interviews and personal photographs, "One Survivor Remembers" explores the effects that her experience had on the rest of her life. It is told with a simple yet powerful eloquence that "approaches poetry," the Chicago Tribune observed.

Parable (1964)
In the 1930s, a number of Protestant groups, concerned about the perceived meretricious effects of Hollywood films, began producing non-theatrical motion pictures to spread the gospel of Jesus. "Parable" followed a filmmaking tradition that has not very often been recognized in general accounts of American film history. One of the most acclaimed and controversial films in this tradition, "Parable" debuted at the New York World’s Fair in May 1964 as the main attraction of the Protestant and Orthodox Center. Without aid of dialogue or subtitles, the film relies on music and an allegorical story that represents the "Circus as the World," in the words of Rolf Forsberg, who wrote and co-directed the film with Tom Rook for the Protestant Council of New York. "Parable" depicts Jesus as an enigmatic, chalk-white, skull-capped circus clown who takes on the sufferings of oppressed workers, including women and minorities. The film generated controversy even before its initial screening. The fair’s president Robert Moses sought to have it withdrawn. Other fair organizers resigned with one exclaiming, "No one is going to make a clown out of my Jesus." A disgruntled minister threatened to riddle the screen with shotgun holes if the film was shown. Undaunted, viewers voted overwhelmingly to keep the film running, and it became one of the fair’s most popular attractions. Newsweek proclaimed it "very probably the best film at the fair" and Time described it as "an art film that got religion." The Fellini- and Bergman-inspired film received the 1966 Religious Film Award of the National Catholic Theatre Conference, along with honors at the 1966 Cannes, Venice and Edinburgh film festivals. It subsequently became a popular choice for screenings in both liberal and conservative churches.

Samsara: Death and Rebirth in Cambodia (1990)
International relief worker Ellen Bruno’s master’s thesis at Stanford University, "Samsara," documents the struggle of the Cambodian people to rebuild a shattered society in the aftermath of Pol Pot’s killing fields. "Samsara" is a Sanskrit term that literally means "circle" or "wheel," and is commonly translated as "cycle of existence." Bruno fleshes out this concept by using ancient Buddhist teachings and folklore to provide a context for Cambodia’s struggle. Described as poetic, heartbreaking and evocative, the film brings a humanistic perspective to the political chaos of Southeast Asia with a deliberate, reflective and sometimes dreamlike pace as it intertwines the mundane realities of daily life with the spiritual beliefs of the Khmer people. One reviewer reflected, "The meditative pacing, the rhythm of bells and chimes, the luxuriant green landscape, the otherworldly response to horrific recent history—I was transported not just to a faraway place but to an altered consciousness."

Slacker (1991)
Along with "Sex, Lies, and Videotape" (1989), "Slacker" is widely regarded as a touchstone in the blossoming of American independent cinema during the 1990s. A free-floating narrative, the film follows a colorful and engaging assortment of characters in Austin, Texas, throughout the course of a single day as they ruminate on UFOs, Scooby Doo, Leon Czolgosz and many other things. Shot on 16mm film with a budget of $23,000, director Richard Linklater dispensed with a structured plot in favor of interconnected vignettes. This resulted in a film of considerable quirky charm that has influenced a whole generation of independent filmmakers. "Slacker" was eventually picked up by a major distributor and earned more than $1 million at the box office.

Sons of the Desert (1933)
Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, along with comedian Charley Chase, star in this riotous comedy of fraternity and marital mishaps. Directed by veteran comedy director William A. Seiter for Hal Roach Studios, "Sons of the Desert" successfully incorporated into a feature-length film many of the comedic techniques that had made Laurel & Hardy such masters of short-subject humor. The film was ranked among the top 10 box-office hits after its release. Film scholars and fans consider it to be the duo’s finest feature film.

The Spook Who Sat by the Door (1973)
When "The Spook Who Sat by the Door" was restored for DVD release in 2004, the New York Times called it "a story of black insurrection too strong for 1973." Based on a controversial best-selling 1969 novel by Sam Greenlee and with a subtly effective score by jazz legend Herbie Hancock, the film presents the story of a black man hired to integrate the CIA who uses his counter-revolutionary training to spark a black nationalist revolution in America’s urban streets. Financed mostly by individual African-American investors, some commentators lambasted the film for its sanctioning of violence and distributor United Artists pulled the movie from theaters after a successful three-week run. Others appreciated its significance. Washington Post journalist Adrienne Manns, a former spokesperson in the black student movement, argued that the film "lends humanity to persons who are usually portrayed as vicious, savage, sub-humans – the street gangs, the young people who have in many cities terrorized the communities they live in." New York Times reviewer Vincent Canby commented, "The rage it projects is real." Ivan Dixon, the film’s director known for his roles in "Hogan’s Heroes" and as the lead in "Nothing But a Man" (1964), believed that the film did not offer "a real solution" to racial injustice, but projected instead "a fantasy that everybody felt, every black male particularly."

They Call It Pro Football (1966)
Before "They Call It Pro Football" premiered, football films were little more than highlight reels set to the oom-pah of a marching band. In 1964, National Football League commissioner Pete Rozelle agreed to the formation of NFL Films. With a background in public relations, he recognized that the success of the league depended on its image on television, which required creating a mystique. "They Call It Pro Football," the first feature of NFL Films, looked at the game "in dramaturgical terms," capturing the struggle, not merely the outcome, of games played on the field. Written and produced by Steve Sabol, directed by John Hentz and featuring the commanding cadence of narrator John Facenda and the music of Sam Spence, the film presented football on an epic scale and in a way rarely seen by the spectator. Telephoto lenses brought close-ups of players’ faces into viewers’ living rooms. Slow motion revealed surprising intricacy and grace. Sweeping ground-to-sky shots imparted a "heroic angle." Coaches and players wearing microphones let the audience in on strategy and emotion. "They Call It Pro Football" established a mold for subsequent productions by NFL Films and has well earned its characterization as the "Citizen Kane" of sports movies.

The Times of Harvey Milk (1984)
Told largely with revealing news clips and archival footage interspersed with personal reminiscences, "The Times of Harvey Milk," directed by Rob Epstein, vividly recounts the life of San Francisco’s first openly gay elected city official. The film, which received an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, traces Harvey Milk’s ascent from Bay Area businessman to political prominence as city supervisor and his 1978 assassination, which also claimed the life of San Francisco mayor George Moscone. While illuminating the effect that Milk had on those who knew him, the film also documents the nascent gay rights movement of the 1970s. The film, with its moving and incisive portrait of a city, a culture and a struggle—as well as Harvey Milk’s indomitable spirit—resonates profoundly as a historical document of a grassroots movement gaining political power through democratic means.

Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)
During a short-lived period following the success of such youth-oriented films as "Bonnie and Clyde," "The Graduate" and especially "Easy Rider" in the late 1960s, Hollywood executives financed—with minimal oversight—a spate of low-budget, innovative films by young "New Hollywood" filmmakers. With influences ranging from playwright Samuel Beckett to European filmmakers Robert Bresson, Jacques Rivette and Michelangelo Antonioni, one such film was the minimalist classic "Two-Lane Blacktop." The film follows two obsessed but laconic young operators of a souped-up 1955 Chevy (singer-songwriter James Taylor and Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson) as they engage in a cross-country race with a 1970 Pontiac GTO, whose loquacious, middle-aged driver (Warren Oates) continually reinvents his past and intended future. The drivers’ fixation on speed, mastery and competition is disrupted when a 17-year-old drifter (Laurie Bird) joins their masculine world and later leaves them in disarray. Director Monte Hellman and screenwriter Rudolph Wurlitzer allow audiences time to absorb the film’s spare landscapes, car-culture rituals and existential encounters, and to reflect on the myth of freedom that life on the road traditionally has embodied.

Uncle Tom's Cabin (1914)
Harriet Beecher Stowe published her great anti-slavery novel in 1852. Adapted for the stage in 1853, it was continuously performed in the U.S. well into the 20th century. "Uncle Tom’s Cabin" was frequently adapted to movies after 1900, but always with white actors in the lead roles until this version, said to be the first feature-length American film that starred a black actor. Sam Lucas—actor, musician, singer and songwriter—had become famous in the 19th century for his performances in vaudeville and minstrel shows produced by Charles Frohman. In 1878, Frohman achieved a breakthrough in American theatrical history when he staged a production of "Uncle Tom’s Cabin," featuring Lucas in the lead role. Thirty-six years later, Lucas was lured out of retirement by the World Producing Corp. to recreate his historic role on film and, in the process, set an important milestone in American movie history.

The Wishing Ring; An Idyll of Old England (1914)
Director Maurice Tourneur, called by film historian Kevin Brownlow "one of the men who introduced visual beauty to the American screen," arrived in America in 1914. Previously, he worked as an artist (assisting sculptor Auguste Rodin and painter Pierre Puvis de Chavannes), actor and innovative director in French theater and cinema. Tourneur’s third American film, "The Wishing Ring," was once believed lost until Brownlow located a 16mm print of the film in northern England. The print subsequently was copied to 35mm by the Library of Congress as part of an effort funded by the National Endowment for the Arts to preserve America’s film heritage. At the time of its initial release, the film was admired for its light and pleasing cross-class romantic story, its fresh performances and the authenticity of its "Old England" settings—although it was shot in New Jersey. Historians of silent cinema have lionized the film since its rediscovery. William K. Everson praised its "incredible sophistication of camerawork, lighting, and editing." Richard Koszarski deemed it "an extraordinary film – probably the high point of American cinema up to that time."